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'Trump of the East' widens lead in last poll before Philippine vote

Presidential candidate Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte (C) listens as Senatorial candidates Dionisio Santiago (R) and Sandra Cam talk to him during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA (Reuters) - The front-runner to be the next president of the Philippines, tough-talking city mayor Rodrigo Duterte, widened his lead in the last opinion poll before Monday’s election.

The poll done on done on May 1-3 and published late on Thursday put Duterte’s support at 33 percent, the same as a week earlier, with his main rival, Grace Poe, a senator who was once favorite to win, down 2 points to 22 percent.

The Social Weather Stations survey, which questioned 4,500 voters, put former interior minister Manuel Roxas, President Benigno Aquino’s hand-picked successor, third with 20 percent and Vice-President Jejomar Binay fourth with 13 percent.

Brash and scathing of the political establishment, the rise of the former prosecutor and mayor of the southern city of Davao has dismayed business chiefs, investors and diplomats who see him as a clown with no clear economic policies.

Allegations made last week by a senator running for vice-president that Duterte, 71, had undeclared millions of pesos in a bank were dismissed by the front-runner as a “publicity stunt” and have not dented his popularity with voters who like his blunt style and tough-on-crime approach.

“The vote for Duterte is a protest vote, not really a Duterte vote,” Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms told newspaper Businessworld where the results of the survey were first published.

“People are showing that they are really frustrated and angry with the current administration. If nothing changes, Duterte will win, he got the imagination of the public.”

Duterte received another boost on Thursday when he won the endorsement of a major Christian sect which is widely considered as a bloc vote of 1.2 million people.

About 54 million Filipinos are eligible to vote in Monday’s elections.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robin Pomeroy